Online Safety & Passwords
Guess what the most popular Password is? I can hear you say, ‘Password’. Well, it used to be but apparently now we have got a little bit more creative and gone with 123456!
Children can be cavalier about sharing their passwords with friends. My own son, for example, uses Snapchat daily and when we are on holiday, he wants to keep his streaks going (posting to a friend on consecutive days). He was very happy to give another friend his password to post on his behalf. Understandably he thinks he can trust them, and his trust was not misplaced, but this can also be problematic. Not only do many of us use the same password for most platforms but the temptation to send a “funny” text or image from someone else’s phone can be strong, particularly if peer pressure or dares come into play. What seems funny to one can be hurtful, embarrassing and distressing to another and the damage can be hard to undo.
I do think that the problem is that as parents we have not realised the importance of teaching our children about passwords. It is something that was not a big issue before our lives became full of mobile phones, gaming, social media and multiple accounts. It is only since I created Gooseberry Planet that I realised I should have had conversations with my children about this – not just about keeping their own details safe but about respecting the privacy of others. They should know that it is illegal to access someone’s accounts without their permission, even if they only look and do nothing else.
We need to start talking about passwords in an age appropriate way from as early as 5 years old. You might think that is very young, but the truth is that many are already, at that age, downloading apps and playing games that need a password. We also often share our passwords with our children to let them access our phone or other accounts. If we do this (rather than entering the password privately and then allowing them access) we should explain that we are sharing this on trust and that while this may be acceptable within a family, it is not something they should do with others.
Using social media in school
There are endless scams, (sometimes known as “phishing”) to try to gain information that help to reveal our passwords. We only need to look at the many quizzes you find online and how, even as adults, we quite happily fill them in without thinking about where that information goes. When thinking of our passwords apparently many of us choose obvious and easy to guess or work out things such as our child’s or pet’s name followed by our date of birth or theirs and maybe, if we are being really clever, an explanation mark. Hackers know this and from your quiz reply they have your email, and you have just filled in that quiz to find out what your DOB means, what you are as a person for having a cat and the most popular pet’s name or daughter’s. They can gather all the likely information to put through sophisticated code breaking software to work out what your password is.
There are many different views but I believe we shouldn’t change our password too frequently (unless we believe it has been compromised) but take the trouble to create strong passwords and keep them different for each account. It may take a bit of keeping track of, (there are numerous password manager products entering the market which if chosen carefully could help), but it is worth it in the long run to avoid the stress and financial damage of identify theft. We should also take advantage of additional levels of security which are offered. Two-factor or multi-factor authentication is a second level of security required in addition to a username and password. This is typically used for sensitive sites such as banking. Many phones also now make use of Biometrics – using details of someone’s body, eg. fingerprint, iris, facial features to check they are the legitimate user. We should all take the time to set these up both for ourselves and our children.
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